Boiled Aubergine With Crispy Garlic, Dried Shrimp Served On Beansprouts

I don’t know what happened lately that caused my home to be like pigeon nest. That’s what my sister said to me LOL. I guessed what she meant was there’s non-stop of guests at my home just like pigeons to their nests… hmmm… I don’t know where she got that phrase from. Anyway, this situation tells me it’s time to move to bigger space!

So, tomorrow’s going to be noisy and busy day but for tonight’s dinner, I have left over of japanese aubergine (again… :-P). I bought a lot because the price was very cheap plus it’s organic! Yesterday, I bought some juicy and crunchy beansprouts and some silken tofu (not sure what to do with the tofu yet.) Already, I baked and grilled the gorgeous small japanese aubergine aka Nasu. There’s 1 method I didn’t use for quite sometime – boiling. It’s one of my mom’s favourite ways dealing with aubergine besides charcoal roasting on top of her faithful portable terracotta stove with a small square opening at the base (I love making ‘firework’ with that stove LOL.)
With what I have from the fridge and short of time for dinner, this was what I came up with for quick yet light meal.

Boiled Aubergine With Crispy Garlic, Dried Shrimp Served On Beansprouts
2-4 nos Japanese Aubergines (Nasu)
5 cloves Garlic
10 g Dried Shrimps
100 g Beansprouts
1 nos Red Capsicum (Bell Pepper) or 1 Red Chilli
1 stalk Spring Onion
Some Shoyu or Light Soy Sauce
Some Oil
Method:
1. Washed the vegetables and toss them dry. Cut the aubergines into halves at last minute before boiling them. Slice the spring onions. Set aside.
2. Soak the dried shrimps to remove some saltiness for 1-2 minutes. Drain and pat dry with kitchen paper and set aside.
3. Minced the garlic finely and chop the capsicum into 
4. In a small pan, pour in 1/4 cup of oil and when it’s hot add in the dried shrimps. Fry until fragrant and crispy. Remove and drain the excess oil with kitchen paper. Set aside.
5. In a pot, boiled some water with some salt. When it boils, add the beansprouts. Blanch the beansprouts for few seconds. Remove quickly and arrange on a serving dish/plate.
6. With same water, add in the aubergine halves and boil them until soften. Remove from pot and drain. Arrange aubergine halve on top of beansprouts.
7. Sprinkle the chopped capsicum and the fried dried shrimps on the boiled vegetables.
8. Now, this maybe a bit tricky… because you need to do fast before your garlic burnt.
In the pan that you fried the dried shrimp, add extra cooking oil; another 1/4 cup or  just enough for the boiled vegetables. When oil is hot again, add in the minced garlic. Fry the garlic until fragrant and crispy but not burnt.
Remove the pan from heat and with the garlic crisps still frying in the oil, pour all the contents all over the boiled vegetable. Yep, the vegetables will sizzles, don’t worry 😀 
9. Sprinkle sliced spring onions and drizzle generous amount of light soy sauce. Sniff and enjoy with hot rice or or a bowl of noodles.
Note: If  you can’t find dried shrimps, you can substitute it with minced fried salted fish of your choice eg. bacalhau, dried whitebait (shirasu), dried anchovy…

This dish may sound difficult at first but once you got your own method to fry quickly and pouring the garlic oil over the vegetables, is easy and fast to make. To eat it just stir or mix the ingredients. You will notice that it’s not oily at all. I love the gravy with plain white rice. 🙂
Enjoy!
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Arrowroot – love it or hate it…

Arrowroot a.k.a cí gū, ngah gu, etc, etc ,etc… is an interesting plant that landed me into World of Culinary Confusion lately. It’s also called “arrowhead” due to the shape of its leaves. I had tasted this strangely named plant after I read it in the local newspaper couple of years ago, which made a coverage about the boosting of sales of certain enterprising individuals who sold bottles of homemade fried Arrowroot chips to earn extra cash during the Chinese New Year. Well, I did bought some of this fresh Arrowroots making the chips myself… 😀 Indeed it’s yummmmyyyy… and you just can’t stop chomping and more chompings until it’s gone from your plate. In my case, it’s straight from the wok to newspaper/kitchen paper-lined colander and munch, munch… Hey, it’s better than buying those state-of-the-art branded chips-and-dips packed along with preservatives, colorings and artificial flavourings at the supermarkets. It’s not that I’m a stingy or health fanatic person but just to satisfy my curiosity of this root the made hoo-haas in the local news..:-P

So, when I returned home from abroad during the 15 days long CNY celebration this year, I had the chance to taste this yummy chips again at my youngest sister’s home… she bought it from someone, I think… 🙂 The taste of the chips as I munched away brought back the memories… hehehehe!

Anyway, I started to look for more info about this arrowroot thing because back in EU, I used this little container of left over arrowroot powder as thickener for my cooking. It’s a wonderful thickener agent and has no funny smell or after taste like cornstarch or potato starch powder (reminds me of my mum used to make this gooey, transparent colloid thing to starch my dad’s police uniforms… urghhh! This made me wonder if the uniform can stand stiff by itself without any hangers! 😀 Dad said I read too much of Master Q a.k.a Lao Fu Tze mags! Errhmmmm… now I remembered one of Master Q’s tall friend (not the shortie) whose ironed pants can even cut through wood… hahhahahaa!!!

Ok… let’s get back into this arrowroot case! There’s a bit of confusion not only for me but I think to other foodies as well. There are several blogs or websites that mentioned about this tasty bulbs… So far, the most cultivated are Maranta, Sagittaria and Pueraria genuses (though other subspecies or tubers may produce the same usage starch). The Maranta should not be confused with Sagittaria species (Sagittaria sagittifolia) with round tubers which also called “arrowhead” and used as a root vegetable-that’s the genus they called ‘nga gu’ or ci gu and is eaten particularly during Chinese New Year in stews or make into chips.. 🙂

Arrowroot (Sagittaria sagittifolia) a.k.a c� gū or ngah gu
Tuber/bulb of Arrowroot (Sagittaria sagittifolia) a.k.a cí gū

Close-up of arrowroot bulb
Cut-up arrowroot bulb

The broadleaf arrowhead (Sagittaria latifolia also known as duck potato, Indian potato, or wapato) produces edible tubers that were heavily collected by the Native Americans as a food source. Most have value as food for wildlife. Some are grown as ornamental plants in bog gardens, bowls, ponds or aquariums.- aquatic plants whose members go by a variety of common names, including arrowhead, duck potato, katniss, kuwai, swan potato, tule potato, and wapatoo.

Now, if I understood, the arrowroot powder that’s available commercially belongs to the genus Maranta which is chiefly cultivated in the West Indies (Jamaica and St. Vincent), Australia, Southeast Asia, and South and East Africa. Arrowroot is used as an article of diet in the form of biscuits, puddings, jellies, cakes, etc., and also with beef tea, milk or veal broth, noodles in Korean cuisine, or boiled with a little flavoring added, as an easily digestible food for children and people with dietary restrictions. It’s amazing that besides its usage in culinary, it’s also has medicinal potential to papermaking!

But… there’s another type of root a.k.a Arrowroot that has large fan clubs called Kudzu or Kuzu in Japanese, is another basic element in Japanese cuisine. It’s even highly mentioned in their art or literary form, from tea ceremony, painting and calligraphy! Kuzuyaki, one of the traditional wagashi, Japanese summer sweets, is made by steaming a mixture of kuzu (kudzu starch) and sweet bean paste. It is cut into individual portions after coolinng down, coated with potato starch and grilled.

Kuzu is said to be originates from Nara, the roots of Kyoto food. The severe weather conditions of the basin contribute to kuzu making, a necessity for Japanese sweets and dishes. Yoshino kuzu is made in the northern Yoshino Mountains – famous for its cherry blossoms – and Ouda. Both regions are famous for its kuzu production.

Yoshino kuzu is made during the cold winter months from the root of the arrowroot grown deep in the mountain ranges of Yamato. When starch taken from the root is refined by water, you have yoshino-kuzu. At “Kurokawa Honke” in Oudacho, the veteran craftsmen continue to make the finest yoshino-kuzu using the same method without any fire that has been used for over 400 years. “Good water and extremely cold weather determines the quality of kuzu. If the water temperature is too high, it is difficult to separate the tannin and other impurities in the kuzu,” says Kurokawa Shigeyuki, the eleventh master of Kurokawa family. The starch from crushed fibers of the arrowroot plant is refined in cold well water – so cold that your hands feel numb – for 48 hours. The starch is then refined in fresh well water again, after the water with grounds is eliminated. This is called kan-zarashi (cold refinement), and after the procedure is repeated five times over the course of 10 days, the kuzu is then dried by cold wind. Yoshino-kuzu, with its unique flavour, is used as the valued ingredient of yoshino-ni (stew), goma-dofu (sesame tofu) and high-class Japanese sweets. Such an ode to such a humble plant!

You may ask what’s the great deal about this Kuzu??? It claimed that it may help reduce alcohol consumption in heavy drinkers as reported in New Scientist. Overall, the whole plant can be consumed… by humans or as fodder to animals.

In Korea, Arrowroot tea or chik cha-made with the juice pressed from wild arrowroot. Powdered arrowroot can also be used) is used for a weak body and thirst caused by a hangover. It is also effective in treating colds, headaches, diabetes, diarrhea, edema, jaundice, hangovers, high blood pressure, and angina. hmmm…. I have to look out for this tea… during winter! I wonder if it’s the same as Sahlep drink I loved???

Ooofffssss the list is endless with this gift from Mother Nature! Imagine loads of wonderful recipes we can create from this humble plant-from soups to beverages and desserts too! Oh, it’s gluten-free as welL… There are also recipes for wine (hmmm.. reminds me that I have to hunt for Pithaya Wine brewed locally in Malaysia! … and much, much more.

Here’s few links that are worth mentioning…

http://eatingasia.typepad.com/eatingasia/2007/02/duck_potatoes_f.html
http://cookingismypassion.blogspot.com/2007/02/delicious-handfuls-of-golden-chips.html
http://penangfaces.chanlilian.net/2005/01/18/siku-seegoo-homemade-chips/
http://www.chowhound.com/topics/361394
http://www.hungrybrowser.com/phaedrus/m011802.htm#5

Now… my next trip will to the local Japanese mini-mart to look for kuzu powder which I’d seen before…

Pak Wan Leaves (Pak Whan Pa)

I saw this bunches of packed Pak Wan (cuttings of about 6″-12″ long stalks) sold by one of the small Asian grocery shops in Belgian Coast. Also referred to as tropical asparagus, the tender but crunchy stems of this plant and the thin leaves are often sliced to be served in stir-fry dishes, fresh salads, and soups, such as Pak Wan soup.

After doing my research, it seems that Pak Wan and Cekur Manis [a.k.a Sweet Leaf Bush (Sauropus Androgynus… not Stevia Rebaudiana though which also coined as Sweet Leaf by some health food companies in their natural sweetener range)] are the same species! In Thailand it’s called Pak Wan and in Malaysia it’s called Sayur Cekur Manis. What I saw back then in my hometown was ready trimmed tender and shorter shoots of this Cekur Manis plant compared to the Thai version which I had to nip off with fingers the tender parts…
Pak Wan
Pak Wan aka Cekur Manis

Pak Wan Leaves
Close up view of the lighter green shade leaves… looked like Cekur Manis isn’t it?

I think it’s hardly noticable that Pak Wan and Cekur Manis are the same plant because of the color- Cekur Manis leaves are dark green, cooked in coconut milk with sweet potatoes, as soup, stir fry with eggs, dried prawns, etc…

In Thailand, at Ban Mor District, Saraburi, there’s an event celebrating this plant in March called Pak Whan Pa Rai San Phit Festival each year! That’s cool to honor a humble plant normally found growing wild in the North and North East of Thailand. There are some recipes online that I will try later on though… 🙂

What I did was added the leaves at the last stage of cooking to conserve the nutrients like this Fried Rice I cooked with the left over rice yesterday.
Pak Wan in my Fried Rice

Few websites mentioning this nutricious wild plant that produces edible leaves and stalks that are rich in proteins and minerals. In Thailand, it’s gathered in the wild but lately it had been farm cultivated (as in Ban Mor District) to avoid depletion of its natural source… I wished more farmers or herbalist in the world will follow such steps to encourage consumption and farming of traditional plants especially the plants that has been over exploited, and come to the brink of extinction. I missed eating Pucuk Paku… 😦 it’s so difficult to find it nowadays… 😥

Updates:
I finally found the Cekur Manis at a local fresh market for RM 1 (0.23 Euro) a bundle..is enough for couple of different dishes for 2 people! Here’s some picts before it ended in my tummy..hahahhaha!

Cekur Manis
Cekur Manis-mature leaves & shoots

Cekur Manis shoots
Close-up of the young shoot of mature Cekur Manis plant

Romancing The Choux

“Euh!? What on earth is that funny thing” I recalled that line years ago when I first saw it displayed amongst the others on the shelve at my local supermarket. The look was really protruding indeed and very tempting to my palate but the $ tag that came with it was pricy then compared to other greens. Besides, the color played another part in my decision… it’s greeeeeeen! Well, you can say that peas, spinach,broccoli are green too. So, eat your green! It’s good for you. Look at Popeye… 😛 yeah, right. Though I’m an adventuress type I do have my limits. Then out of nowhere, this green thing popped in my brain! I want to taste that because it should be easily available locally and cheap too since they grew in Europe! Voila! Huff puff i went to the local supermarket the following days… Romanesco Broccolli There it was, sitting prettily, majestically and bewitchingly… hehehehe. Waiting to be pick and tuck into my tummy! Ok… ok… What the heck I’m blogging about? ROMANESCO, of course! Errr.. don’t confuse with Romanesco-a Romance dialect spoken in Rome, if you search in Wikipedia… :-PRomanesco (Brassica oleracea var. Romanesco) is from Brassicae family like Brussels Sprout (another of my favourite and fabulous plant), Cabbages, Cauliflower. Some said it’s marriage between broccoli and cauliflower with sweet, nutty flavour. It’s an ancient variety that was grown exclusively around Rome or Roma (hence its name). At a glance, its tightly packed pyramidal, lime-green (chartreuse colour) fractal buds set in spirals, shaped like a peaked cap looks like an alien artifact from Mars(?) than a vegetable is an amazing example of phyllotaxis – the “fractal” patterning that can appear in our mother nature but has the nutritional benefits of its extremely close cousins, broccoli and cauliflower!

Close up of the fractal flowers

 

 

 

Now, how do I cook this? I tried by steaming the florets but not too long or they become mushy and the lime-green color may faded. Some cooks suggested adding lime/lemon juice after boiling them but I disliked the idea… 😀 So, what I did was 2 ways-plunging the florets quickly into very cold water after boiling them or steam in very little time. Ok, how I eat this stuff? Add generously dashes of extra virgin olive oil, freshly grinded black pepper and a pinch of fleur de sel like “vinaigrette”. Simple but yummyyyyyy and brings out the taste of Romanesco! You can eat it like salad or add to pasta of your choice at the last minute before serving (stir in the florets into the pasta sauce, gently… you don’t want to break apart the beautiful tips, do you?).I tried with penne pasta, tossed with cooked smoked bacon bits (I prefer to buy raw smoked bacon and sliced it in small pieces), chopped fresh basil, chunky tomatoes, feta cheese (or Gorgonzala) and generous dashes of extra virgin olive oil.Hmmm, some fresh cream (wicked,isn’t it? 😛 ) or grill with Parmesan or Feta cheese spread generously on top…ahhhh, the choice is endless! Hey… it adds color to your meals too!Cut up floretsAs I dug deeper into this amazing vegetable, the more I love it! Being ancient made me more apprieciated its value. I don’t want to see such plant extinct! Take a look into this “Mariquita Farm” and you will see what I meant. They also have recipes for you to try. Also, there are many other sites that blog about this wonderful vegetable and “tips”… :)Oh, I didn’t post any picts of my cooking or recipes at this moment. Will do that soon… :-DNow, where can I find “orange” and “purple” cauliflower!!!